Keith’s late goal lifts Heat to huge win over Bulldogs

The Abbotsford Heat put together perhaps their most dominant performance of the season on Friday evening, but it took them until the final minute of the third period to nail down a victory over the Hamilton Bulldogs.

Heat forward Stefan Meyer tries a wrap-around during the first period against the Hamilton Bulldogs on Friday at the AESC.

Heat forward Stefan Meyer tries a wrap-around during the first period against the Hamilton Bulldogs on Friday at the AESC.

The Abbotsford Heat put together perhaps their most dominant performance of the season on Friday evening, but it took them until the final minute of the third period to nail down a victory over the Hamilton Bulldogs.The Heat owned a huge territorial edge throughout the game and particularly in the final frame, but Bulldogs goalie Drew MacIntyre stood on his head to keep the score level at 2-2. On the Heat’s 44th and final shot of the night, they finally broke through. Matt Keith swept behind the net and muscled a wrap-around between MacIntyre’s pads with 44.8 seconds remaining to lift his team to a huge 3-2 victory before 3,461 fans at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.”You know what, that’s as good a hockey game as we’ve played this year, maybe in two years here,” Heat head coach Jim Playfair said afterward.”The players took it upon themselves to make sure they were ready to play tonight.”The Heat improved to 33-26-4-5 with the win, and while they’re still sixth out of seven teams in the North Division, they moved to within four points of second-place Hamilton (36-25-1-6). Friday’s win was all the more impressive in light of the fact the Heat played the better part of two periods with just four defencemen. Joe Piskula left the game in the first period after absorbing a big hit in the corner, and Matt Pelech took an early trip to the showers after getting a major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct for a check on Bulldogs forward Hunter Bishop at 3:05 of the second. The remaining defenders – John Negrin, Gord Baldwin, T.J. Brodie and Chris Breen – did an admirable job shouldering the load.”I thought our forwards also did a really good job supporting them, too,” Playfair pointed out. “I thought we limited their odd-man rushes, and our defencemen moved the pucks excellently through the neutral zone, which kept us on the forecheck.”Heat starting goalie Leland Irving left the game at the end of the first period after tweaking his groin, giving way to backup J.P. Lamoureux, who turned aside 13 of 14 shots in relief. Both Irving and Piskula will be further evaluated Saturday morning.Bulldogs forward Dustin Boyd and John Armstrong of the Heat exchanged first-period goals, and early in the second, the visitors took advantage of the five-minute power play afforded to them by Pelech. Mathieu Carle hammered a point shot past a screened Lamoureux at the 4:06 mark to make it 2-1.Late in the frame, with the teams playing four skaters aside, Breen jumped into the rush, took a centering feed from Gaelan Patterson, and snapped a blocker-side shot past MacIntyre. It was the third goal of the season for the stay-at-home blueliner, and easily his prettiest. The hosts absolutely owned the third period, setting up shop in the Hamilton zone for long stretches, but MacIntyre stymied them until Keith finally solved the Bulldogs’ keeper in the waning seconds.The Heat might have expected a better yield after directing a barrage of shots at the Bulldogs’ cage – for the game, they out-shot Hamilton 44-20 – but they stayed persistent until the end. “The tempo, the mood didn’t change on the bench,” Keith said. “It’s that time of year, and if it takes 60 minutes, or to the 61st minute or the shootout, you have to get points.”Tyler Ruegsegger, signed to a tryout contract on Friday morning, took a regular shift for the Heat, and picked up an assist on Armstrong’s goal. “I liked him a lot,” Playfair said of Ruegsegger, a forward who was most recently a member of the ECHL’s Alaska Aces. “Give him credit – he got up in the morning and flew from Las Vegas and got in late this afternoon. He came as advertised. He got a nice assist, he was a plus player, he competed hard.”The Heat and Bulldogs renew hostilities on Saturday (7 p.m., AESC).